Saturday, May 23, 2009

Italians Make Things Hot


Doesn’t that just sound pretty? What with it being Italian and all, it’s kind of like the Sophia Loren of salads, if you ask me. I mean… you take normal ingredients. Things like stale bread of all things, some tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and a red pepper. Then, true to Italian form, you sex it up with some good dressing and suddenly you have a show-stopper summer salad, something that makes you do a double-take and think “Huh… so… it’s just bread and tomatoes? I don’t get it, but damn, I kind of have a crush.”

During one hot Phoenician summer day, I was bumming around watching Ina Garten on the Food Network and saw her literally throw this dish together in what seemed minutes-- I was sold. Given the heat, I was in need of something fresh that had the essence of summer but not the heat of it. Oh, Ina. You’re a woman after my own heart.

Again, it seems like some of the best dishes were perfected by peasants centuries ago, and panzanella is the same. Different versions call for different ingredients. Some have anchovies, some don’t have cucumber, some grill the red peppers, some use a specific Tuscan salt-less bread. This is a pretty basic version that you can fancify to your liking. Add what you like to this dish-- grill the tomatoes or slow roast them, perhaps. Jamie Oliver uses the tomato juice as part of his dressing. In my very amateur opinion, this recipe is a great balance of flavor, and, more importantly, a solid starting point to jump off in your own direzione.

From new year, new food

Back to the recipe. I’m an impatient person, I think. I just don’t have time to wait for a loaf of bread to be a few days old before I make this. When I want panzanella, I want it now. Instead, I cheat (duh) and use a fresh loaf, torn into chunks and toasted with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper in a skillet. The croutons alone are enough to entice me over and over again to make this dish as the weather warms up and the tomatoes ripen with the summer.

From new year, new food

A final note on Sophia Loren. You know, I don’t proclaim myself an expert on her by any means, but how can you not love a woman who one time said "Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti" ??? Even if she’s a bit tanorexic these days, she still rocks it. Any girl would be lucky to look so good, and I think this classic Italian salad with fresh veggies is a good place to start. At least... here's hoping.

1 comment:

DC said...

you had me at "Sophia".....